Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Portraits of greatness

I've been cooling my heels on processing the photographic materials in the Proof Collection since we ran out of mylar negative sleeves last week. This morning, I finally remembered that we do have other photographs that need attention: the unprocessed glass lantern slides in the Historical Image Collection. We have lots of paper sleeves for those, plus interest was very high when we did our short slide show for library staff a month or so ago. (Of course, once you sleeve the lantern slides, they get fatter, and you can't put as many into one box. So, now we need more lantern slide boxes, but that's an order for another day.)

The first box I pulled off the shelf in our storage room had a small note inside: "2 slide boxes from Dr. Pearson, January 1974." Dr. Tony Pearson was a longtime faculty member and former chair of the anatomy department who had donated several other things to the collections here, including some oil paintings from his office and this cute little mallet. Our accession register had listed a "Tony Pearson Collection" as the first numbered collection (1997-001); when we were unable to locate manuscripts or personal papers in the backlog of unprocessed materials we assumed it was lost. Lo and behold--there it was in the image collection!

Unlike the scrapbooks of campus photos and candid shots of faculty and students that make up the Daniel Labby, Richard Dillehunt, George Porter, or Charles Norris collections, these lantern slides from Pearson illustrated his interest in the history of medicine: the collection is primarily portraits of the Great Men of Medicine, with some places thrown in for good measure. You can almost gauge the physician's celebrity from the number of slides of him (Galen-3, Pasteur-2, Malpighi-2). Other names are not as familiar: Louis Ranvier (discoverer of the myelin sheath), Johann Peter Frank (public health pioneer). But there is Skoda, looking like a schoolboy. Osler, sitting in the garden.

It's interesting to see these today, when the announcement of the winners of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was printed in the Oregonian. Craig C. Mello and Andrew Z. Fire won for their discovery of RNA interference. Will their names live on, like John Hunter and Ambroise Pare? And what format will their pictures come to us in: 35mm slides? PowerPoint files? Maybe jpeg, tiff, psd... We'll be ready!

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